Your best ever ride-out?
“What was your best ever ‘bike journey?” I get asked this question quite often, by ‘biker and non-biker friends (yes, I do have some friends who are not ‘bikers. They’re alright, I suppose).
Whilst we have been unable to get out and about for real, I have been reminiscing on previous great rides. The one that first springs to mind took place on the winding country roads of northern France.
I have mentioned before that I support an organisation called Bike Tours for the Wounded, which assists injured and sick service personnel with their rehabilitation by way of pillion rides in various locations around the world. One of these is an annual (apart from 2020 of course) trip to Normandy for the anniversary of D-Day.
It was on the way back to the ferry terminal, from Utah Beach, during the 2018 trip, that the fates conspired to make everything seem perfect. Three of us split from the main group, and took a detour off the main route, along the back roads to Cherbourg. We were in no hurry, having left plenty of time to catch the ferry, and there was very little traffic.
We meandered through pretty, honey-stoned French villages, along spectacular roads with lovely sweeping bends, but the high point for me came as we rode out of a rather dark forested area, quite high up. Just as we rounded another lovely curve in the road, the sea appeared to our right-hand side and the sun came out at the same time, sparkling on the water. The view was stunning – it was just joyous.
There have been many others, in different countries and weather conditions, but that moment will stay with me. Here is a photo, taken from my handlebar mounted video-camera, but of course that really doesn’t do it justice.
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Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient garage space to be able to keep more than two ‘bikes, there’s no room to build another garage and I don’t want to move house. This means compromises have to be made. Until September, I had my beloved Ducati Monster (Marmaduke), and my Triumph America (Tarquin) who is a big boy and takes up quite a bit of space.
My intention was to ride more through this winter than in previous years – my commute has recently changed and is now roughly 50 miles each way, including motorways. Although a lovely ‘bike, the America is not ideal for those conditions, and I did not want to put too many miles on the old Monster.
I finally bit the bullet and sold Marmaduke, not without some sadness, but needs must.
So then, the exciting part. I had narrowed my preferred choices down to a few, but of course the lockdown rules meant that the ability to test-ride was somewhat restricted. A couple of our local dealerships were offering socially distanced, pre-booked appointments, though, so I managed to negotiate the rules and did a few test rides.
On a cold afternoon in early December, I test rode a Tiger 800. “I’ll only be twenty minutes or so” I said breezily to the sales chappy, leaving my best friend, wallet, and mobile ‘phone behind as collateral.
Off I went, thinking I’d do a bit of town riding and then along the dual carriageway, to get a decent range of different conditions.
Within seconds (I am not exaggerating) I felt so physically and mentally comfortable that I forgot I was on a different ‘bike, and within minutes I had decided on a name. Half an hour later, I was completely and utterly lost somewhere in Cheshire and having just the best time!
I finally got back to the dealership after well over an hour, with a big grin on my face and freezing fingers. My friend was beside herself with excitement (she is easily excitable, she is a Speed Triple rider). She knew I’d been having a good time because I’d been gone so long!
All the paperwork signed, and a good deal done (engine bars, panniers, top box and louder exhaust all sorted), I collected Tristram a week later.
Since then, of course, we’ve gone into another full lockdown (still current at the time of writing this), but I’ve still managed to clock up some really happy miles to work and I genuinely have not regretted my decision for a moment.
Photo shows me, Tarquin and his new stable mate Tristram. I dyed my hair to match the new ‘bike, of course.
The writer, Liz Hoskin, is a solicitor and Accredited Senior Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. She rides a Triumph Bonneville America and a Triumph Tiger 800. SorryMate is a firm of solicitors working exclusively to help ‘bikers get the compensation they deserve after an accident, and offering advice to ‘bikers on a range of other legal matters.
For more information on Bike Tours for the Wounded, visit – https://www.bt4tw.co.uk/
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